An MLB draftee coming out of high school, Nebraska baseball sophomore shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach has had expectations to live up to his whole life.
Schwellenbach attended Saginaw Heritage High School in Michigan, where he was named both Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Baseball for the state in 2018. As a 6-foot-1 senior coming out of high school, Schwellenbach was taken in the 34th round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, but he turned down the offer to play Division I baseball at Nebraska.
Schwellenbach has two older brothers who both played baseball at his high school. He gives credit to them as the reason that he picked up a glove and bat at such an early age.
“I remember going to my brother’s games wearing my uniform, to make sure I was always supporting them,” Schwellenbach said. “That’s really how I fell in love with the game of baseball.”
Jump forward to his third year with the Huskers, Schwellenbach looks to lead Nebraska as the captain of the infield at shortstop. He said that the confidence head coach Will Bolt has shown in the third-year player means everything to him, and helps his performance.
“It’s huge, just to know that they see me as a leader and as the shortstop, who is the leader of the infield, it means a lot to me,” he said. “It helps me succeed in games, because I know there is no doubt in their mind I’m going to get the job done.”
Bolt has penciled in Schwellenbach as the everyday starting shortstop, showing his value to this team on the field. He has been impressed with Schwellenbach’s performance this fall and sees major improvement from last year.
“He’s going to be our everyday shortstop by all accounts, he’s had a great fall offensively and defensively,” Bolt said. “I mean he just keeps getting better day by day in the fall.”
Schwellenbach started all 15 games at shortstop last year as a sophomore. He was one of four Husker players to start in all 15 games last season. With the season being canceled due to COVID-19, Schwellenbach has retained his sophomore status and has three years of eligibility remaining, including this upcoming season.
As a leader on and off the field, he has embraced the role and been a mentor to the incoming players. Stepping up and setting an example for the younger players is something Schwellenbach strives for.
“I kind of took the younger guys under my wing and said just be yourself,” he said. “Just showing them that being yourself is the biggest thing and that the game will just play for itself is important.”
He was named to the Big Ten preseason honors list in 2020 after putting together a solid campaign last spring. Schwellenbach ended the season hitting .295, ranking second on the team with 18 hits and added 5 runs batted in at the top of the order through 15 games.
Not only can Schwellenbach get the barrel to the ball, but he has also proven effective on the mound this fall. Although he hasn’t recorded a pitch at the college level, Bolt has been impressed with what he’s seen from the scrimmages.
“On the mound it’s good; it’s pretty electric,” Bolt said. “He throws a lot of strikes. Just seeing his numbers in highschool of what he was able to do from a strikeout-to-walk ratio. He really didn't walk many guys at all, which is pretty rare.”
The last time Schwellenbach saw the mound was back in his high school days in Michigan. He looks to be more of a limited pitch count reliever who will see more of his innings in the back end of games.
Schwellenbach stayed busy over the summer, practicing in his home state at Trevor City, where he played around 20 games. When he returned to Lincoln, he said he felt the excitement and energy this team has right away from the first practice.
“Baseball is a team game with nine guys and if everyone is not locked in you’re going to lose the game,” Schwellenbach said. “This fall when I got back, I just felt what the brotherhood was like again, and being able to practice with my best friends.”
Having the season taken from them last spring hit home with Schwellenbach and this Husker team. Not being able to play the entire season last year gave Schwellenbach a new outlook on the game as a whole.
“Being away from the game for three or four months with the pandemic, you really get to learn a lot as the season was just taken from us,” he said. “You can get caught taking things for granted, and I’m taking the mindset of playing every game like it’s your last into this season.”
This Husker team looks to rest and recover this winter, with a big spring season ahead of them. Schwellenbach will look to stay busy and stay focused to help Nebraska compete in the Big Ten in the upcoming season.
“I’m just trying to get stronger over the month we have off from the coaches and the team,” Schwellenbach said. “Just get my swings in and get my arm right to see if I can throw more than an inning this year.”